As a teacher, I have been inspired by seeing the amazing things that students can do when they are given the space to develop. During my time in the classroom, I tried to make the learning environment an exciting place where children wanted to be.
During my time as a Jewish Studies teacher, I made an effort to learn as much as I could about how to use technology to enhance learning. I have implemented several of the strategies I learned and have supported other teachers, both in my school and in other Jewish schools, to integrate technology further.
I began teaching in a classroom with one computer and a projector at the front of the classroom. I found that this limited me to standing at the front of the classroom while teaching. About 5 months after I started, the school bought an interactive whiteboard for my classroom. This helped me make my lessons more interactive but it wasn’t enough.
A year later I bought my first iPhone andstarted using it as a remote mouse to control the computer (Touch Mouse) . This enabled me to use different areas in the classroom while teaching. I also started looking for different apps to use to help support my teaching. Some of the first apps I downloaded were “Shabbat Shalom”, “Pocket iSiddur” (Hebrew prayerbook) and “Chumash & Rashi” (Bible with commentary). These immediately helped me in the classroom as I had curriculum resources at the tap of a finger. Over time I became aware of more and more apps which I started to use in class.
I experimented with various different apps to find ones that I thought would be best for use in the classroom. I realised that I didn’t have to spend so much time researching as many of my students had iPod touches or iPads that they could use at home. Therefore, I created an app review form that I posted on our Virtual Learning Environment (Fronter) to get students to recommend apps they would like to use in school. I asked the students to state which subjects they thought the app could be used for and why they enjoyed using it. The students loved having the ability to recommend apps for their teachers to use. As a result of their recommendations, I bought/downloaded Pages, Squeebles Spelling, Pop Maths and Spellathon.
In order for me to most effectively research apps, I invested in an iPad. Using my iPhone and iPad (with the Head’s permission when utilising the Guided Access feature) and the school’s sole iPad meant that I could have a table of six children using the devices at a time.
Every day for the first 15 minutes of the lesson we had guided Hebrew reading. Since there was a broad range of reading abilities in the class, I had previously found myself struggling to provide the support each group of students required However, once I had the 3 devices, I was able to set my lowest group working on reviewing their Hebrew alphabet through apps such as “Alef-Bet Bullseye”, “Alef Bet Schoolhouse” and “The Aleph Bet Story”. The children were able and motivated to work quietly with their partners, freeing me up to support other students in the class. I rotated the devices between groups for different sessions and saw a marked improvement in their Hebrew reading commitment and attainment. All the students demonstrated improvement, but the most significant improvement was among the lowest ability individuals. Differentiation is one of the most serious challenges that teachers face, particularly when teaching languages. By giving children access to apps on the iPads, I succeeded in creating individual differentiated programmes for all abilities so that all children became excited and involved in learning a foreign language (Hebrew).
I discovered an international competition for which the prize was an iPad for the school. In order to enter, children had to create a piece of digital homework. I set the topic for the homework and modelled several different apps (ScribblePress, ToonTastic, StoryKit, PuppetPals) and websites which children could use to produce this homework. By giving the children the freedom to choose the medium through which the homework would be produced, not only was the motivation significantly higher than normal, the quality of the final product far surpassed any other homework I have ever received. This culminated in one of my pupils winning the iPad for the school.
I now had two school iPads to use and my own personal devices. I used the school iPads in the majority of my lessons and showed other teachers in the school how they could be using the iPads to support their students.
When the (new) Headteacher visited my classroom, she commented on the buzz that was evident. Children were highly motivated and working independently, challenging themselves to reach higher levels and subsequently improving their skills. Children wanted to learn, wanted to improve and loved coming to school.
Parent feedback on these initiatives was overwhelmingly positive. They told me that their children had enjoyed doing their homework, were learning more and were increasingly motivated to continue their learning at home by using apps for revision as opposed to the more traditionalworksheets and books.
I have learned a lot since I started using Apple mobile devices in my classroom. I have seen how the quality of students’ work improves when allowed/encouraged to use an iPad or iTouch. I have seen how the students are most invested in their learning and motivated to succeed. I have seen how the students’ academic attainment in reading and writing is measurably improved. I have seen students inspired to ask their parents to download their favourite educational apps onto their home devices. Most importantly, I have seen how children thrive when given creative independence.
In summary, the successes I have seen are:
- More independent and focused learning
- Differentiation is more specific and lower ability children are more confident
- Children feelempowered and take ownership of their learning
- Children are motivated to work in school and continue learning at home
- Improved behaviour in the class due to higher level of engagement
Some of my students interviewed each other, discussing what it was like using the iPads in school with me.
They also recorded some tutorials to show others how to use their favourite apps.
- Hebrew Touch and Write